Boomeresque:Definition
1. Adj.: Describing a person born between 1 Jan. 1946 and 31 Dec. 1964
2. Adj.: Description of a person, place or thing possessing Baby Boomer je ne sais quoi
3. See also, Boomer, Esq.: A Baby Boomer who is also a licensed attorney (See, e.g., About).

Philadelphia Phriday* — Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market

by Suzanne Fluhr on March 24, 2013 · 44 comments

Reading Terminal Market sign in Philadelphia

It’s probably no secret that Philadelphia has a little bit of an inferiority complex. Wedged between New York City and Washington, D.C. on the I-95 corridor, sometimes we are just not feeling the love. However, we recently had our collective ego massaged a tad when Mark Bittman, food writer for the New York Times Magazine, wrote an article about New York City and said, “the greatest market ‘we’ have is 80 miles away in Philadelphia.”  He was referring to the Reading Terminal Market.

Reading Terminal Market, an indoor Market in Philadelphia

The 12th and FIlbert Streets entrance to the indoor Reading Terminal Market

As part of my Baby Boomer desire to reconnect with my home city, I decided to walk over to the oldest continuously operating farmers’ market in the United States, the Reading Terminal Market. I was in good company. The Reading Terminal Market is the third most visited attraction in Philadelphia, after the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.

The Reading Terminal Market is an indoor market in Center City Philadelphia, occupying an entire city block, between 11th and 12th Streets and between Arch and Filbert Streets. Even though it has not been a train terminus since 1985, the Market was built underneath the old Reading Railroad train shed. It is walking distance from the Independence Hall area, City Hall and most fortuitously, it is adjacent to (and underneath), the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Given its location and what it has to offer, it is no surprise that the Market is visited by an average of over 100,000 tourists, conventioneers and locals a week.

Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia Cheesesteaks

Time Out for a “Philly” Cheese Steak

If you can’t find something to eat for lunch and take home for dinner at Reading Terminal Market, you are seriously not making any effort — at all. The Market has over 80 vendors with cuisines ranging from Pennsylvania Dutch, to Asian, to Middle Eastern, to Indian, to Mexican, to a French creperie, to Cajun, to a sit down gastro brew pub, deli, and a down home American diner, complete with a formica counter and swivel stools. Of course, you can also score a Philly cheese steak or an Italian hoagie. (PS: we don’t call them “Philly” cheese steaks because — what else would they be)?  BTW, unless you have a lot of time and are prepared to mediate, do not ask a group of Philadelphians where to get the best cheese steak.

There are every manner of snacks and desserts, including to die for (and maybe from) baked goods, candy, and Philly soft pretzels — real ones, that you slather with mustard. True Reading Terminal Market devotees, cruise around picking up various parts of their meal from different vendors.

Reading Terminal Market Food Court

Reading Terminal Market Food Court

Although there are a few sit down food emporiums (emporia?), there is also food court type seating in large central areas, as well as hidden in every nook and cranny of the cavernous space. Sharing a table is part of the experience. And if, heaven forbid, you absolutely must check your email (or write a blog post), there is free wifi. I mostly managed to keep my smart phone pocketed while slurping my soup so I could enjoy the pianist whose repertoire ranged from Chopin to Ragtime.

 Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia's Indoor Farmers Market Cheese Counter

A Reading Terminal Market Cheese Counter — or, At $26 a Pound, Should We Call it a Cheese “Purveyor”?

In addition to all the prepared food purveyors, the Reading Terminal Market is also a go to destination for locals to buy fresh seafood, meats, poultry, produce, and flowers, in addition to high end charcuterie for that tapas party they’ve been meaning to have.

Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia Pennsylvania Dutch Meat

A Fresh Meat Counter at a Pennsylvania Dutch Run Stand in the Reading Terminal Market

Realizing that it’s not just locals roaming the aisles, there are vendors selling items to help visitors to the City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection) remember their trip. You can take home an Amish quilt or something less expensive like your very own tiny replica Liberty Bell or copy of the Constitution on parchment. (After all, you never know when there might be a pop quiz on the Bill of Rights). I certainly did not want to show up at home empty handed, so I bought some dark chocolate covered pretzels for my beloved at the Pennsylvania General Store.

Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia Bakery

A Bakery Counter in the Reading Terminal Market Full of Tempting Treats

Like the gorilla I found painting in Rittenhouse Square, the Reading Terminal Market was doing its part to keep Philadelphia weird. As soon as I walked in the door, I realized that among my fellow shoppers were Marie Antoinette and two disgruntled Vikings. (It turned out that they were a marketing gambit for the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts.)

Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia

Marie Antoinette and Some Unhappy Vikings — Everybody Goes to the Reading Terminal Market

If you go —- and you really should, here is some information to help you plan your visit:

  • The Market has a very helpful website that includes an interactive map, showing the location of and more information about the various vendors.
  • The Market is open Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. It is also open on Sundays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Pennsylvania Dutch vendors are there on Tuesday and Wednesday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p. m. and from Thursday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Check the website for additional closing information and for information about upcoming special events.
  • The Market is walking distance from the historical colonial district, is well served by public transportation and has discounted parking options. (But really, why do you want to drive around the center of any large city? If you must, here are some driving directions.)
  • Near the 12th and Filbert Streets entrance (behind the Marriott Hotel), two of the major hop on-hop off sightseeing bus companies sell tickets for their tours. Consider taking a bus tour first thing in the morning (hopping off at a few places) and returning to the Reading Terminal Market for a late lunch.
  • You can even take a walking tour of the Market, with an opportunity to sample some of the wares.

[This post is now part of a collection of “foodie” blog posts collected by Inside Journeys.]

If you’ve been to the Reading Terminal Market, which was your favorite vendor?  If you’ve never been, do you think you would want to include it on your Philadelphia itinerary? Do you have any questions for your fellow Boomeresquers, including moi?

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Kim HM March 24, 2013 at 2:23 am

Loved the blog and I am definitely doing the Market the next time I visit silly Philly.

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer March 24, 2013 at 4:06 am

Come on down–or up–whichever the case may be!

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avatar Cathy Sweeney March 24, 2013 at 3:28 am

The City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection, as I just learned from you) knows how to do a market. Really interesting that it’s the oldest, continuously operating one in the US. Congrats to Philly on the NY Times Mag recognition.

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avatar Just One Boomer (Suzanne) March 24, 2013 at 4:00 am

Thanks, Cathy. Not to often that Philly gets a shout out in the Gray Lady.

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avatar Dorine Houston March 24, 2013 at 7:07 am

For years I bought all my fish and seafood–at least 2-3 dinners a week–at Golden Seafood. For produce, I always went first to Iovine’s and OK Lee’s. For cheese, Downtown. For Saturday lunch, Pearl’s Oyster Counter and always ice cream from Bassett’s. Have you ever enjoyed their wonderful champagne sorbet? Christmas marzipans at Mueller’s.

I miss Philadelphia and very much miss my regular shopping at the RTM. I lived a few blocks from there for 30 years, and walked there at least twice a week to stock up.

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avatar Larissa March 24, 2013 at 2:44 pm

It is indeed the best. I particularly like the Pennsylvania local farm stand that carries produce, and other fresh foods from local farmers.

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer March 24, 2013 at 3:21 pm

All the fresh food there seems to be locally sourced. The produce was beautiful.

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avatar Roz Warren March 24, 2013 at 4:55 pm

100,000 people a week! That’s a lot of traffic. With respect to the inferiority complex you mention in your first paragraph, in the bio of a recent essay (www.nytimes.com/2013/03/19/booming/in-the-song-of-egypt-a-chord-for-both-secular-and-religious-jews.htm ) I joked that I was “from Philadelphia, a suburb of New York City.” You’d better believe that I was taken to task for that in the comments section.

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer March 25, 2013 at 1:17 am

And rightly so! We don’t need any help with our inferiority complex—in the NY Times no less!

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avatar Irene S. Levine March 24, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Sounds like a great market! I always like to visit markets when I travel and this one sounds terrific~

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avatar Cousin Linda March 25, 2013 at 7:07 am

Definitely Bassett’s Ice Cream. Maybe my favorite in the US for chocolate and coffee ice cream. Although I used to regularly shop at one of the Amish meat stands when we were there visiting Elise (and eating Bassett’s coffee and chocolate ice cream of course.)

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer March 25, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Well, after all, you have to keep your energy up with chocolate and coffee ice cream while shopping for other things.

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avatar Ivy Bryan March 25, 2013 at 2:30 pm

It is a gem of a place, which you capture perfectly. We recently went on a Philadelphia Chocolate tour, which included two of the chocolately stores!

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer March 25, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Thanks, Ivy. I have to go back and have some chocolate this time!

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avatar Lucretia Coleman March 25, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Suzanne, thanks for sharing your perspective of one of my favorite places. I usually travel to Center City once a month and Amazulu is one of the shops I visit in The Reading Terminal.

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avatar Just One Boomer (Suzanne) March 25, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Hi Lu-
I saw that store. The Reading Terminal Market really is an eclectic place. Philly is lucky to have it. Next time you come down let me know and I’ll meet you there!

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avatar Debra Yearwood March 28, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Great blog. I love all the photos and your humorous delivery style. I also now want to visit Philadelphia. The market looks amazing.

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer March 28, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Thanks. We hope you’ll make it to Philly someday. Stay tuned. There’s lots to see and experience here.

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avatar Jeri March 28, 2013 at 5:12 pm

The pictures remind me of Seattle’s Pike Place Market. I’ve never been to Philly, but I imagine I’ll make it there someday, and I would certainly mark The Reading Terminal as a place to visit.

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer March 28, 2013 at 8:29 pm

One doesn’t usually think “bucket list” when one thinks about Philadelphia, but we think it’s worthy of a spot.

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer March 28, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Pike’s Place Market also crossed my mind, but the Reading Terminal Market is bigger and we have Pennsylvania Dutch farmstands 🙂

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avatar HomeTownTravelGuides.com March 28, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Def the best place to grub in Philly. And I definitely agree with Jeri, Reading Terminal reminds me of Pike Place Market too, minus the M.C Escherness.

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer March 28, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Well, best place for a certain type of “grub”. We’ve also had a Philadelohia “Restaurant Renaissance”. Bottom line: you won’t be hungry when you visit Philly.

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avatar Carol Covin March 28, 2013 at 6:41 pm

You had me at the pastry vendor. What’s your favorite soup from the Market?

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer March 28, 2013 at 8:36 pm

There are some interesting Pennsylvania Dutch soups—-chicken noodle with corn, but I am particularly fond of the Chinese big bowl noodle soups at the Sang Kee stand.

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avatar Susan Cooper March 28, 2013 at 6:55 pm

I wasn’t aware that this market was the oldest operating in the US, that is really cool. I have French friends who just move to Allentown PA that are just now starting to explore the East Coast. I’m forwarding this to her so that she can plan to visit this. I know they would love it:-)

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer March 28, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Thanks. If your friend’s need any other advice for their visit to Philly, have them send me an email. I enjoy helping folks plan their visits.

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avatar Susan Cooper April 1, 2013 at 7:06 pm

I will let them know. They could use some help in this area. 🙂 BTW: I’m from BHB/LinkedIn 🙂

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avatar Becc April 1, 2013 at 11:53 pm

I don’t know too much about Philly, so it has been great reading your blog. I may just have to add this to my bucket list for future holidays.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne (Just One Boomer) April 3, 2013 at 6:29 pm

By all means. We’d love to welcome you to Philadelphia. Let me know if I can help with any Philadelphia trip planning.

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avatar Josie April 6, 2013 at 9:20 am

Suzanne,
You lucky duck, You! To have that fabulous market in your back yard. We totally fell in love with Reading Market on our recent stay — thanks for the funny and informative review.
~Josie

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr April 6, 2013 at 11:38 pm

So, because it’s in my backyard, I don’t go there nearly as much as I should.

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avatar Madaline Fluhr April 13, 2013 at 7:58 pm

As you know, Eddie, Emma and myself (your sistah!) will be travelling to Philly from CA to celebrate your son’s wedding. Can’t wait! Having lived in Philadelphia for my first 25 years and in CA for the past 30 (go ahead, do the math, whatever – emphasis on the “er”) I have been a woefully horrible tourist in both locales. I am guilty of putting down roots and getting so buried by the minutia of the quotidian that many of the fabulous places to see, learn about, experience…..have passed me by. I truly wish to turn that around!!! We will definitely be visiting Reading Terminal Market on our upcoming visit. You have painted an alluring picture. We may just go there for breakfast – do some other sightseeing – and go back for a late lunch/early dinner. It sounds like having a multi-chambered stomach – like a cow! – would prove very useful when visiting Reading Terminal Market. Sigh…..(I do love to eat….especially out!!)

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avatar Just One Boomer (Suzanne) April 14, 2013 at 1:10 am

Child, I can’t believe you’ve never been to the Reading Terminal Market. This is a gap in your life experiences that you most certainly have to rectify on your next trip to your hometown.

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avatar eemusings April 14, 2013 at 5:37 pm

That bakery selection looks delicious!

If we make it to Philly will definitely make a note of the market.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr April 21, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Another friend, a Philadelphia area native who is queasy about leaving her email address, provided the following helpful information in an email to me:

Thank goodness bloggers shouted out Bassett’s and the Fair Food Farm Stand which also publishes an email newsletter keeping one informed about their seasonal offerings. Pa General Store has Philly goodies and souvenirs and also catalogues to ship gifts with Philly flavor. In the back, rest rooms have been recently completely redone, and there is a new place which makes cheese on the spot; you can watch through a large window. Can’t go wrong on breads at either Le Bus or Metropolitan Bakery stands. And, go upstairs to the office for gift cards; my family knows these are one of my favorite items to receive.

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avatar Marcia July 20, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Ooh, we had breakfast at the Reading Market when we went to Philly about 3 years ago for Penn Relays – time to go back.
For the record, a few people from NYC know that Philly has some fabulous restaurants. Last time we drove down for dinner at Douglas Rodriguez’ restaurant — can’t remember the name.

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avatar Marcia July 20, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Oh, and thanks for linking up this week’s #FoodieTuesday, Suzanne!

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avatar Doreen Pendgracs November 18, 2014 at 2:12 pm

I could see us having a darn good time at this market, Suzanne. Hopefully … Early next year. Thx for sharing.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr November 18, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Definitely, Doreen. They have quite a lot of confection, including chocolate, there.

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